Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sam Rainsy and Comparison of Progress

This is in addition to the recent article on who to vote for in the next election.

Comments on a report gleaned from Radio Free Asia as Published on KI-Media.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy maintained that the yardstick that should be used to measure progress in Cambodia should be based on the comparison of the progress made in neighboring countries, as well as the progress made in other developed countries in the world.

It appears as if these remarks were made off the cuff without thinking too much about what is was really saying. It certainly does not make any sense comparing Cambodia to developed nations. The economic base for those countries is quite different from developing countries. This is like the proverbial apples and oranges. Somebody with a degree in economics and finance should know that you have several categories: developed, semi-developed, threshold, under-developed countries. How can you compare the first category to the lowest category? This is plain nonsense. Thailand is a semi-developed country and as such is not comparable. It can only serve as an example to be followed (although not in all aspects). Vietnam is one step above Cambodia in its development as a threshold country, but it may still be used as a yardstick because of its similar economic base.

Sam Rainsy said that he still maintained his previous stance in which he claimed that Cambodia cannot move towards real progress if it were to be compared with that of neighboring countries.

What does he mean by that? Comparison is an obstacle to progress?

Sam Rainsy said: “I am maintaining that the progress in neighboring countries is 10 times better than ours. In Thailand for example, people have work, and their salaries are 10 times more than us. They have 10-20 times more roads, schools, hospitals than us.

Thailand has had a head-start of about 30 to 35 years. It never had a colonial power in its country except for the period of the Japanese occupation during WWII. They have been close allies of the U. S. since and have received massive help from that country, especially during the Vietnam war time, perhaps as thanks for their help. Thailand did not have stone-age communism in its country for 4 year during which time the entire infrastructure was destroyed and the elite of the country eliminated. Thailand did not have a Communist regime under the aegis of another Communist country for 10 or 11 years. Thailand did not have a civil war for 10 years. What is he talking about?

As for Vietnam which was also a victim of a war where the US dropped so many bombs on, and it also sustained 30-40 years of war during the French colonial regime, it was destroyed much more than us, and even though it was a communist country, their leaders were responsible and they led their people to prosperity that is 2 to 3 times better than us.”

Though Vietnam is ahead of Cambodia because of Vietnam’s Doi Moi policy introduced in 1986/1987, it did not make real progress until the U. S. re-established diplomatic relations in 1997, which ushered in a time of renewed U. S. and European investment in Vietnam. Vietnam was and is seen as a better country for investment due to its large economic base and population of 85 million people, which constitute a formidable consumer base. It may be used as comparison, but then on the base of its similarly structured economy, and to see how they did it and possibly to be emulated by Cambodia. Their ‘responsible’ leaders repress their people much more than the much-vilified Hun Sen does. The existence of the Sam Rainsy Party is proof of at least a semblance of democracy, which the Vietnamese government most certainly won’t ever allow to happen.

Even though several authors wrote that Cambodia fell into Year Zero between 1975 and 1979, and that the country cannot be reconstructed as well as other countries during such short period of time, Sam Rainsy blamed on the corruption and the lack of responsibility of the current leaders still.

All historians agree that Cambodia was for all intents and purposes in the Year Zero in 1979. It is also agreed by economists that a redevelopment will take much longer than in a country that was not ravished and literally run into the ground by dystopian rulers. Although there is undoubtedly widespread corruption and a lack of responsibility on the part of the current party in power, there has also just as undoubtedly been progress, which he cannot deny. By the way, corruption is similarly widespread in neighboring Communist Vietnam and to a somewhat lesser extent in Thailand.

Sam Rainsy added: “Japan after World War II was heavily bombarded by the US, and even 2 atomic bombs were dropped and turned Japan into ashes, but in 1964 – 19 years after the end of the war in 1945 – with good and non corrupt leaders, Japan rose from the ashes and became an economic Superpower, and the Japanese had the highest living condition in Asia. But, in our country, 30 years after the Khmer Rouge – not just 19 years like in Japan – it has been 30 years already and the majority of the Cambodians are still living in poverty, some are getting even poorer because they lost their lands, their forests, their fishes, they are poor because of corruption, because of the inabilities and the lack of responsibility of our current leaders.”

This is the most ignorant observation somebody in Sam Rainsy’s position could make. Japan was an industrialized and powerful country before WWII.
But when Japan lay destroyed the U. S. undertook the rebuilding of the country in an almost unparalleled, massive endeavor, comparable to the one in Germany. Japan did not do this out of its own capability and without the Americans that ‘rise from the ashes’ would have taken much longer. Japan still had its elite and has a long tradition of higher education, an atmosphere conducive to creativity and ingenuity. Cambodia under Sihanouk in the 1960s was not even close to Japan in terms of education or overall development at that time. The last 30 years of Cambodia must separated into two periods – one before 1993 and one after 1993, or better 1997, because that is the year progress became tangible and really visible in Cambodia.

Hun Sen alluded to a politician, whom he declined to name, who allegedly used to cheat in the past. Hun Sen said that he can measure progress by comparing the start of his (political) journey to the current location where he is now standing.Hun Sen said: “There are some politicians who dare not talk about it. There is no need to compare to the Pol Pot regime, and the comparison must be made with developed countries instead. Oh Sir, now we must know where we came from, and how far we have walked to? But, they do not dare (talk about it?), if you are scared, make it clear that you are scared, you shouldn’t cheat while talking. Some other leaders said that there should not be any comparison to the Pol Pot era, if compared to the Pol pot era, the Pol Pot era was better and Pol Pot was right. But now you want to compare with developed countries. Now, let’s talk about Thailand, they never had wars, they just had a war in its southern region, and the minor coup d’├ętat which took place, besides that they were always developing (their country), they never saw destruction, did they not? But for us, we destroyed all the way to the roots. Vietnam after the war ended also rebuilt its country while in Cambodia, the destruction was made all the way to the roots.”

It must be assumed that the translation is somewhat diffuse but obviously Hun Sen is making the same point as the writer above. It goes without saying that Hun Sen will not accept any responsibilities for his or his government’s failures and mistakes, and the widespread corruption (which he does on occasion acknowledge).

Nevertheless, Sam Rainsy, who used to say that the Cambodian people are getting poorer and poorer, called on the current government leaders to recognize their leadership mistakes rather than blaming the Khmer Rouge.Sam Rainsy said: “Our country is destroyed by the leaders who came after the Khmer Rouge regime, in the lat 10-20 years. Was it the Khmer Rouge who destroyed the forest (during the KR regime)? In fact, it was done by the leaders who came after the Khmer Rouge regime instead. Was it the Khmer Rouge who allowed the immigrants and the Vietnamese to catch all the fishes from the streams, lakes and rivers in our country? It was not the Khmer Rouge, it was those who came to replace them later on. Was it the Khmer Rouge who sold the state belongings, the people belongings to international thieves (Mafia), to the crooked companies which confiscated lands belonging to the people, and making them poor? The Khmer Rouge case dated from 30 years back, what I am talking about is the destruction of the nation in the past 10-20 years only. They shouldn’t blame the Khmer Rouge on everything that they did wrong. They should accept their own mistakes – mistakes which are caused by corruption, dictatorship, lack of capabilities.”

It is unfortunate that the current leaders in government were also the leaders in the Vietnamese-installed government in 1979 and 1985. Certainly a complete break with the past by having new and unburdened people form the government after 1993 would have given the Cambodia fresh impulses and been a complete renewal from the ground up. But those new faces were few and far between in 1993. Judging by Ranariddh’s political escapades, those impulses would have been somewhat erratic too. Sam Rainsy still has to prove his mettle as a statesman.

Nonetheless, the fact that is was the Vietnamese Communist government in Hanoi that virtually plundered the complete resources during the 10 years of their occupation must not be overlooked when apportioning blame.

The reference to the Vietnamese is again pandering at its worst and the constant repetition of this makes Sam Rainsy appear racist.He would do well by acting a little more aloof and more reflective at times. Perhaps he should get a media adviser.

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